Jade's Story: 13-year-old survives accidental gunshot to head, shares his story

SAGLE, Idaho - As Rebecca Linck watches her sons Dakota and Jade Harlow take a boat ride around Round Lake, the sun hits the water and she's struck by just how lucky she feels.

"There's one more memory, one more moment that is just absolutely perfect," Linck said. "That I want to fold up and put in my pocket forever."

Back in June, if you told Rebecca Linck she'd be watching her boys fish together, she would've told you it would be a miracle. But now, two and a half months later, that's exactly what she's calling Jade -- her 13-year-old miracle.

As she takes it all in, she doesn't even pretend to relate to what Jade sees as he sails across Round Lake.

"He'll describe, it's just total darkness and you feel terror and fear and you go to open your eyes and he'll open his eyes and it's still nothing but blackness," Rebecca says.

That darkness began June 22nd. Rebecca got a call from her boys' stepmom.

"All she could formulate, or articulate, at that moment was 'Jade's been shot, they're putting him on Life Flight' and then the phone went dead," she remembers. "Probably the one phone call, that I just never... I don't think any mother wants to get."

She made the 90-minute drive to Sacred Heart from Sandpoint and says it felt like an eternity. She didn't know where or how Jade had been shot or whether he'd survive. When she got to the hospital, it was even more heartbreaking than she could've imagined.

The shot that injured Jade came from a 12-gauge shotgun, which was accidentally fired by his 15-year-old brother Dakota.

"I remember hearing the gun go off and the glass from the door shatter and seeing myself fall back," Jade says.

It wasn't until a surgeon came and told Rebecca he couldn't save Jade's eyes that she realized he'd been shot in the head. His family was forced to make the heartbreaking decision to remove his eyes.

He'd go blind.

Dakota decided if anyone was going to tell Jade, it should be him. The weight of that responsibility was carried by a 15-year-old boy.

"Dakota let him know, in probably one of the most beautiful, heartfelt conversations I've ever seen between my boys," Rebecca tells KXLY4.

Jade says he instantly forgave his older brother and the healing began. The road to recovery has been long and hard: two and a half months later, Jade still has 50 BB's embedded in his head and jaw. He's lost part of his frontal lobe. 

"The doctor said I'd be a vegetable -- I wouldn't be able to move my arms, I wouldn't be able to move my legs, I wouldn't be able to talk," Jade says.

Today, he's proving those doctors wrong. He's able to walk and talk with ease. He gets around wearing a helmet and using a walker.

Jade has a ton of personality. His mom says it's heightened now.

"I was reaching for the door knob and then boom! I was shot in the face," Jade says. "Yeah... pretty badass, right?"

If you talk with this 13-year-old firecracker, you wouldn't know it, but he suffers from anxiety and insomnia. And Rebecca says he doesn't have much of an off button.

"Part of losing a frontal lobe means he doesn't have quite the filter that the rest of us would have when expressing thoughts, feelings," Rebecca explains.

The biggest loss, though, has been his sight. He sits in a sea of darkness everyday. But when he's able to sleep, he dreams in color. He says he dreams of his guns -- the thing that blinded him just two and a half months ago.

"Yes, some people would probably say I'm crazy to want to hunt and shoot again," Jade says.

In the days since June 22nd, this family has relied on their faith. Rebecca says they're all going through counseling -- and they're all grieving. As Jade grapples with the loss of his sight, Dakota struggles with guilt. Rebecca has to balance the darkness her boys see and feel with the light of what comes next.

She says even if she knew then what she does now, she wouldn't change a thing.

"I believe no matter what we would've done, at some point, Jade would've been blind," Rebecca says. "Anybody - doesn't matter our age, doesn't matter your skill level - accidents happen."

Even though this accident had the power to tear this family apart, it's bound them even closer together.

"You know, this is just another event that took place that could've turned out much worse," Rebecca says. "But not a single one of us are promised tomorrow."

Jade has some big milestones coming up. He's set to get a prosthetic skull to cover the part where his frontal lobe used to be next month. 

On Saturday September 15, Sam's Produce next to the Conoco on Highway 95 in Sagle, Idaho will host a benefit barbeque to cover Jade's medical costs. The barbeque will run from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and raffle items and cash donations will be accepted. 

"All we can do is take it one day at a time. And that's as far down the road as I can think," Rebecca says. "I look forward to the days that it just sort of calms down, and we're like 'wow, remember when?'"

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